Fly-fishing and beer go together like apple pie and ice cream or peanut butter and jelly. Western Montana offers outstanding fly-fishing streams as well as a surprising number of microbrewing companies to visit after a successful day of fishing.
Western Montana has no fewer than 20 rivers to choose from for fishing. And Montana trout are managed not by stocking with hatchery fish, but rather by protecting habitat along with catch and release restrictions in certain areas to preserve the wild population. That means wild and aggressive trout that are looking for your fly. The Bitterroot River near Hamilton, the Clark Fork River near Missoula and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park are all known for their good fishing, clear fast-moving water, great scenery, and wildlife. All three rivers support cutthroat, rainbow, brown and bull trout. What’s not to like about this picture?
Craft breweries are conveniently located near all three rivers. Western Montana is home to some of the best beer in the West. The varieties of beer from pale to dark make sampling an indulgence after a hard day of fishing.
And if you’re looking for advice on which fly will ease the fishing, well, take it with a grain of salt.
“Every guide will tell you what their fly is and every guide will give you a different answer – every year,” said Mike Cooney, operations manager at Glacier Raft Co.
“Personally, my answer would be to stick to the traditional patterns,” he said. “The Stimulator, affectionately known as a ‘Stimi,’ is a main staple of my box as well as a Royal Wolf, H.L. Varient, parachute hopper and for a nymph-prince nymph.”
Cooney said the hot fly that works one season gets replaced by another hot one the next year. “It seems that the Westslope Cutthroat isn’t really that picky and the guides tend to be pickier than the fish when it comes to what fly to toss,” he said.
Here’s a look at three top-rated Montana fishing streams, tried and true outfitters, close-by brew pubs and suggested places to stay overnight. The hardest decision you have to make is what stream to fish.